A remarkable couple of weeks for many different reasons!
Beginning with the viewing of the rough cuts of a documentary 'After Coal'. Directed by Tom Hansell and produced by Patricia Beaver of Appalachian State University, it goes back and fore between the coalfields of south Wales and Appalachian Mountains showing the parallels and divergences and focusing on vital cultural exchanges.
Also, it draws attention to the ways in which those two communities are coping with the aftermath of coal-mining.
It's an ambitious project and is still a way from being finished. I'm personally delighted that the music of Huw Pudner and Chris Hastings is included, after Tom attended one of our Open Mic nights in Merthyr and heard them there.
After the showing there was some constructive criticism and an interesting point from one of the students there, who knew little about the strike in Wales and was fascinated to find out.
I argued the case that the title is a misnomer, because we are very much living with the effects of coal today, in terms of vast opencast mines and private companies who ignore the wishes of many communities.
Tom agreed and told us that strip-mining (the American term) was an equally contentious issue in that area, but was far more divisive with more people seeing it as a job-provider.
It was fitting that a week later I went to the 'Death of the valley' demo outside the Senedd in Cardiff, organised by the anti-opencast group United Valleys Action.
Here a sombre and suitably attired procession, complete with coffin,fake vicar, bearers and Grim Reaper (da iawn Tog!) proclaimed the death of the Valleys, murdered by opencast.
A petition was handed to the Petitions Committee and it seemed like almost everyone did a speech or poem. The corpse was most eloquent!
Bethan Jenkins AM (I declare an interest here) called for an all-Wales group to fight the scourge of opencasting and this seems essential.
One man began the call for our local AM , shouting 'We want Huw! We want Huw!'........but no show, as always.
He's probably doing an impersonation of our past MP Ted Rowlands, who always managed to keep a foot on both sides of the fence : against it on the west, in favour on the eastern slopes!
Back to Merthyr and following the film we all went down High Street to the New Crown Inn for a jazz evening.
There was a real mixture of ages, gender and nationalities ; music being the force of togetherness.
Nobody can pretend that the town is always like this: there can be undoubted tensions and UKIP are on the rise in terms of votes. People still find it easier to blame their recently-arrived neighbours than address the true causes of banks,business and bullying politicians.
Yet, for an evening, you could believe.
A young band - made up from Merthyr pop group Moonbirds - took the stage and, though the drummer struggled with jazz, keyboard player and bassist were lively and sometimes adventurous.
They also backed female vocalists Olga and Delyth McClean, who performed enchanting solo slots.
I was just a bit disorientated. This was the very Crown where we used to hold benefits for CND and Anti-Apartheid in the 80s and 90s and also poetry readings. The voices of Ifor Thomas and Ian McMillan came at me from the walls like they were retro speakers of a verse juke-box.
Walls had disappeared since then, just as they did that night between such diverse people. The Crown's a genuine muso pub and it's definitely 'appnin Goj!'
A momentous event for me ( apart from undergoing a gastroscopy) was giving a talk in Welsh to an enthusiastic bunch of advanced learners who are called Cymdeithas Soar.
Previous guests had included the likes of Beti George and Hywel Gwynfryn , so I was 'nerfus iawn iawn'.
Well, I think I managed okay, interspersed with too many 'so's' and 'y'knows', though I especially enjoyed reading a few of my poems in Welsh to them and they were kind and receptive. It was certainly preferable to the medical test anyway!
Here were like-minded people, devoted to our language and culture.....I shall certainly be joining them in future.
CYMYSG O BOBL
Dim byd yn y ‘Western Mail’,
dim byd ar y radio neu teledu,
achos ‘sdim ffrae yna
‘sdim angen i alw’r heddlu.
Dyn y bar o Bortiwgal
mae Chicken Gizzards ar y bwydlen,
cwpl o gariad o Wlad Pwyl
yn yfed seidr o beren.
Merch ddel iawn o’r Wcrain
ei lais yn dansio’r bossa nova,
bachgen sy’n canu’r gitar
fel adar lleuad ym Merthyr.
Dim son yn y papur lleol
ond rhannu dros facebook, twitter hefyd :
jazz yng Nghymraeg, cerddoriaeth Americanaidd,
cymysg o bobl yn y Goron Newydd.
A MIX OF PEOPLE
Not a word in the ‘Western Mail’
or on radio or the television,
because there’s no fighting here
no need to call the policemen.
The barman comes from Portugal
there’s ‘Chicken Gizzards’ on the menu ,
a couple of lovers from Poland
drinking their pear cider brew.
A really pretty girl from Ukraine
whose voice is dancing the bossa nova,
the boy playing guitar with her
is one of the moon-birds from Merthyr.
Not a mention in the local press
yet shared on facebook and twitter,
jazz sung in Welsh and American music
in the New Crown’s people-mixture.